The Plan B Taboo

morning_after_pill When I’m reading a contemporary romance of the non-paranormal variety, I read with the expectation that the characters in the book are living in the same world that readers live in. With many books this isn’t an issue, but occasionally I come across a book with a plot device or storyline where I’m left thinking, “Huh?”

If you’ve been reading romances for any length of time you’re likely familiar with the “Oops!” storyline. You know, the one where the hero and heroine are so overcome with desire that all rational thought disappears and they make mad passionate love – without protection. Afterward, the response is “Oops!”, followed by weeks of nail-biting while waiting to see if the heroine is preggers. That storyline.

For many years I accepted the “Oops!” storyline without question. I may have rolled my eyes that they forgot to use a condom, but I generally accepted the wait-and-see approach. In the last few years, though, I’ve been getting a more and more annoyed with this storyline. Not because it’s so common. (Well, maybe a little bit.) Most of my annoyance is because not once in all of the dozens of books I’ve read with this storyline has the heroine ever even thought about using emergency contraception. Not once. I’ve yet to read a heroine who’s even considered the option, let alone one who’s actually used it. Instead it’s weeks of nail-biting and misery and frayed nerves waiting to see if she conceived, and frankly, I’m getting a bit tired of it.

The main reason I’m getting annoyed is not because I think all heroines should use e-contraception, because I don’t. I accept that it wouldn’t fit into every couple’s beliefs. Rather, my annoyance stems from the fact that the books feel like they’re all set in an alternate universe where the option of emergency contraception doesn’t even exist—not even for heroines whose beliefs would not necessarily keep them from using it. And why is that? I’m sure there are authors who are morally opposed to e-contraception, but I’m also sure that there must be some authors out there who aren’t opposed. Yet the option remains conspicuously absent from romances, even for secondary characters.

I’ve been thinking about possible reasons to explain this apparent taboo, and here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

Self-Censorship- Are authors self-censoring so as to please the most people? Even if they have no problem with emergency contraception, do they not want to risk offending the readers who are opposed? Does this issue touch too closely to religion, and is therefore not discussed for fear of alienating readers?

Publisher Censorship- Could it be that some authors have tried to use e-contraception in a book, only to have the publisher demand that it be removed for being too controversial? Is it that publishers don’t want to chance offending or alienating any readers, so this topic is totally off-limits to authors?

Plot Device – Could it be as simple as being a plot device for the author? I’m thinking the main reason authors write the “Oops!” storyline in the first place is because they 1) want the angst over a possible pregnancy, or 2) they want the heroine to get pregnant. E-contraception is directly at odds with both of these outcomes, so it can’t be used. And authors who don’t want the “Oops!” storyline could simply have their characters use a condom in the first place, thus avoiding the issue altogether.

I think maybe all of these reasons are in play. To what extent each has an impact, I couldn’t begin to guess. What does seem strange is that a lot of romances have controversial material and touch on all manner of divisive issues, so why not emergency contraception?

Personally, I wouldn’t be bothered by a heroine choosing to use e-contraception, nor would I be bothered by a heroine opting not to for whatever reason. I’d just like to see the issue acknowledged as being real and out there, regardless of what the heroine decides.

So, what do you think? Is emergency contraception taboo in romances? Are any of the possible reasons discussed above the explanation? All? None? Something else altogether?

Also, would you be bothered reading about a heroine who used emergency contraception? What about a heroine who refused based on religious or moral beliefs, and opted to take her chances on the pregnancy? How would you feel about that?

-Katie Mack

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57 Responses to “The Plan B Taboo”

  1. Lindsey says:

    I’ve actually read several contemporaries that addressed this. Pamela Clare’s UNLAWFUL CONTACT jumps to mind, plus a couple Harlequins and maybe a digitally published book. None of them actually used it, for various reasons, but it was definitely considered and in some cases purchased.

    I assume it’s mostly a plot device – as you suggest, if they’re not using protection, they clearly want there to be possible consequences. Possible and unexpected pregnancies are tried & true romance conventions, so I don’t see authors rushing to embrace an option directly opposing a trope readers enjoy. I’m sure we’ll see it trickle in gradually, though, as it is now a reality. Also, aren’t there significant physical affects from taking it – cramps, bleeding, even vomiting? I’m not sure every story can be interrupted for the heroine to spend days dealing with that.

    I’ll admit I did judge Pamela Clare’s heroine just a little for considering it, mostly because it was implied this was not the first time she had purchased it. It made me feel like she should spend a little more time working on a Plan A. (That said, great book.) Otherwise, I don’t think I would have a problem with it, assuming it worked with the story/character.

  2. Maria says:

    I think it’s (3), plot device. For me it’s similar to a heroine realizing there’s embezzling or some other crime going on at her workplace, but rather than calling the police or some other appropriate professional, she and perhaps the hero deal with the crime-solving and criminal-capturing alone. Sometimes a flimsy excuse is used to explain why law enforcement can’t be notified, but often not. (Other authors manage this by making clear the local law enforcement is in on the crime.)

    But you may be right that it’s simply too hot an issue to touch.

  3. Maria P says:

    As a very devout Catholic, I stopped buying contemporaries a long time ago. I still have some old silhouettes and such from writers I love. I stopped because honestly they do not reflect any of my beliefs at all. I do not believe in contraceptive use and get really annoyed by reckless behavior. Contraception has turned the sexual act into a sports arena where anything goes and has tried to separate the life giving aspect from the union. Contraception and abortion are fruits of the same tree. I get tired of the shock of being pregnant by any heroine when there shouldn’t be shock at all. It has been a consecuence of making love since the beginning of time. I would not enjoy reading about e-contraception at all since I equate it with an abortion. So I guess my answer would be no, I would rather not read about any of those issues in my escape reading. I want people who accept responsibility for their actions. Who would see a child as a gift instead of an intrusion or a problem and who respect life. It may not affect some people but it bothers me. I stick mostly with historicals because I’ve always loved romance so I guess it doesn’t matter much anyway. To be honest I would rather not know of the authors’ views on these issues because I would not spend any of my hard earned money on their books if they did not respect life. I realize that in this crazy world that we live in where common sense seems to be lost and there’s no longer a right and wrong way I’ll be attacked for my views but I have just as much right to them as anyone else.

  4. Amy says:

    Hi,
    I’ve been reading romances for 15 years now and am also a med student so I find it hard to believe that there can’t be one female character out there in historical or contemporary genre that isn’t informed about sex, pregnancy & how to avoid getting pregnant. It’s a plot used to get the lovers married in historicals and OK I can live with it in that setting. But there are so many contraceptives out there for the contemporary heroine so why is she not using them? If the couple forgets, then why doesn’t she go to the pharmacy or ER & get the morning after pill? Why aren’t these characters smart enough to figure this out?
    Another issue I have never come across is abortion, where a woman chose to not have a baby for any number of reasons. It’s a fact of our time so why not include it in novels? No matter where you stand on the debate, it’s a fact that women from all walks of life have had to face this issue and regardless their choice, it’s been one of the most important decisions of their life! So how about it romance authors?

  5. Anon says:

    I think it is either authorial laziness or authorial dumbing-it-down for the general population.

    To me, it is on par with a romantic suspense written in the last 10-15 years where the heroine is being stalked by the Mad Serial Killer ™ and never bothers to have a working cell phone or some type of weapon on her at all times.

    I always think, “Candidate for the Darwin Award! She doesn’t deserve to survive and pass on her genes!” And the book becomes a wall-banger for me at that point.

    Authors, let me be the first to point this out: Not all readers LIKE to read about stupid/clueless heroines (or heroes). You’re likely to make more sales to readers like myself if you consider this fact.

  6. “Also, aren’t there significant physical affects from taking it – cramps, bleeding, even vomiting? I’m not sure every story can be interrupted for the heroine to spend days dealing with that.”

    Yes, there can be some side effects, but (a) not everyone gets them and (b) for some of those who do get them they may not be much worse than normal period pains and (c) they don’t seem to last for “days.” Here’s what the NHS has to say:

    Common side effects, which occur in more than one in 10 women, include:

    * abdominal (stomach) pain,
    * irregular menstrual bleeding (spotting or heavy bleeding) before your next period is due,
    * nausea (feeling sick), and
    * tiredness.

    Less common side effects, which occur in one in 10 women at most, include:

    * breast tenderness,
    * dizziness,
    * headache, and
    * vomiting (being sick).

    Any side effects that you experience after taking the emergency contraceptive pill will normally pass quickly. (NHS website)

    “Another issue I have never come across is abortion, where a woman chose to not have a baby for any number of reasons. It’s a fact of our time so why not include it in novels?”

    Interestingly, it was discussed at Dear Author just a few days ago.

  7. Tam says:

    I think Shannon Mckenna touched on this in Edge of Midnight too.

  8. Katie Mack says:

    @Lindsey and @Tam – Interesting to learn that there are some books out there that touch on this. I actually have Unlawful Contact sitting on my TBR shelf, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Maybe I’ll have to bump it up the list.

    @Maria – You’ve mentioned one of my pet peeves: characters who don’t call the police when any rational person would. I hate that!

    @MariaP – I can definitely see where reading a character choose to use Plan B would really bother a devout Catholic, and I don’t think you’re alone in your opinion. Inspirational romances seem to have built good readership by providing readers with romances interwoven with spiritual beliefs.

    @Amy and @Anon – I agree that it does seem odd that so many romance heroines are much less informed about/responsible about using contraception than women in real life, and I admit it often drives me nuts.

    @Laura V – Thanks for the side effects info. Now I don’t have to go look it up!

  9. Goosie says:

    This is sort of related but one of my biggest pet peeves in contemporary romance (especially Nora Roberts…as much as I love her) is when the main characters don’t use condoms. It drives me insane! I understand that it’s used as a plot device but still. I also understand that you can have unprotected sex and not get pregnant. I also also understand there are those who don’t believe in contraception and that’s fine. It still bothers me though when the characters don’t use condoms. I know this is romance-land where STDs probably don’t exist but STILL. Okay. I’m done.

    :)

  10. Katie Mack says:

    @Goosie — I had the same reaction when I first started reading Roberts a couple of years ago! I remember thinking, “Where are the condoms?” followed by, “Why aren’t the characters worried about pregnancy?” I think it’s because Roberts’ scenes aren’t written to include ALL the details, like most recent contemporaries do. I think that readers are supposed to assume her characters are using protection, even though it’s not explicitly stated.

    I started thinking this after reading a scene of hers where the heroine provided the condoms ahead of time, but there was no part in the scene where it was specifically stated that the hero donned the condom, and it was implied later that they’d used one. So now whenever I read Roberts, I assume they’re using protection unless she indicates otherwise.

    The STD thing, though, that bugs me. I remember loving the sex scene in Susan Andersen’s “Getting Lucky,” simply for the fact that the H/H had the STD discussion before having sex.

  11. Beret says:

    I think that this is a plot device too. Romance is escapist reading for me and I’d prefer not to hear about too many details…like I don’t really want to hear about what was used as toilet paper in the Middle Ages.

  12. Lindsey says:

    Laura Vivanco: Yes, there can be some side effects, but (a) not everyone gets them and (b) for some of those who do get them they may not be much worse than normal period pains and (c) they don’t seem to last for “days.”

    Thanks for clearing that up with some official info, Laura – that’s helpful. I know a couple people who fell on the harsher end, but I’m sure it’s different for each person.

  13. Trish says:

    I’m with Beret. In general my romance reading is “escapist” entertainment and I don’t want to deal with a raft of moral dilemmas while reading. I believe most of the time, this is a plot device meant to create tension but, for many authors and publishers, this may also be an area to be avoided so as not to create controversy. Just like abortion. How many romance novels have you read where the heroine, pregnant by the hero, chooses to have an abortion? I’ve never read one. I just think publishers especially would consider that kind of kryptonite.

  14. Louise B says:

    Regarding the question of abortion. Actually, Francine Rivers wrote a very powerful story dealing with the struggle to have one or not in her book The Atonement Child.

  15. Thinking about the side-effects of emergency contraception made me look up some of the possible side-effects of pregnancy, because it suddenly struck me that you don’t tend to see a lot of heroines having postnatal problems, but

    “Recent literature draws attention to the following physical symptoms at six weeks that are typically played down by postpartum women: backache; perineal pain (whether or not there is a healing wound); urinary incontinence; sexual problems; haemorrhoids; constipation; faecal incontinence; headaches; fatigue; recovery from infection” (Midwifery)

    and

    “There has been increasing recognition over the past few decades of the consequences of childbirth on the physical and psychological well-being of a woman. MacArthur et al., in a postal survey of 11,701 women 13 months to 9 years after delivery, found that 47% experienced at least one or more health problems within three months of delivery. These included backache, headache, hemorrhoids, depression and bowel and bladder symptoms that persisted for a minimum of 6 weeks. Glazener et al. questioned 1249 women about their postnatal symptoms on three occasions after childbirth; 85% of women experienced one new symptom during the first 8 weeks and 76% reported one or more health problems persisting for up to 18 months. Sleep and Grant reported that 15% of women experience dyspareunia up to 3 years after a normal vaginal delivery” (Textbook of Female Urology and Urogynecology)

    Sorry if that’s too much information which is only indirectly related to the topic of emergency contraception, but I found it really interesting to think about the difference between how pregnancy and childbirth are portrayed in romance, compared to how they’re experienced in real life.

  16. Anon says:

    Having unprotected sex (in contemporaries) equals DUMB to me. I lose respect for both protagonists. I don’t care so much about the after-effects as I do about the idiocy of the ‘before’.

    Also, personally I’m TIRED of this particular plot point. It’s been done to death! And, it’s not romantic, just dumb.

    There are two other things that I want to mention in this very interesting discussion.

    1) A lot of young women (i.e. under age 18) are reading these books. (I was one who ‘sneaked them’ at 10-11 myself.) I’d rather, tastefully, see some type of planned protection mentioned than not, in hopes that they will think about it in their own futures. Positive role modeling, people! Yay!

    2) It can be done tastefully and without interrupting the ‘flow’ of the narrative. One or two sentences is often enough. Personally, I don’t need a lot of detail (another poster mentioned medieveal toilet paper) but I am thrown by anachronisms and TSTL moments. I’m taken out of the narrative when the protagonists don’t behave appropriate to their time period. In contemporaries this should include thinking about birth control & protection against STDs.

  17. Interesting post. Until recently, e-contraception was only available via a doctor in the UK, but now it’s available as an over the counter medication, I’d like to see it more, or at least have the characters consider it.
    I wrote a contemporary where this very eventuality happened, so I gave the heroine a faux-period and a history of irregular periods, so she thought she was okay, when in fact she was pregnant. It happened to me (but I wanted the baby, so I was thrilled when I found out I was wrong!) so I figured it would be okay to use.
    There are some women who are advised not to have children, or not to have any more because of health problems. So I guess they turn nun, or just live in a sexless marriage?

  18. JulieLeto says:

    struck me that you don’t tend to see a lot of heroines having postnatal problems, but…

    Actually, read Robyn Carr. Her Virgin River series features a midwife character, so every aspect of pre and post pregnancy is covered. You see the whole gamut of pregnancy situations in her books from still birth to fast labor to c-section to natural childbirth with no complications to post-partum depression to twins…you name it and it probably has been portrayed in one of her books and very realistically, too. What I love about her books is how all the men adore pregnant women. Think they’re sexy. Fantasy? Maybe…but I’ll take it. I love her books!

    In fact, in one book, the condom broke. The hero, a doctor, suggested emergency contraception if I remember correctly, but the heroine was on the pill, so she didn’t worry. Unfortunately, she was also taking antibiotics, which can futz with the pill. She didn’t tell the hero that part and yes, she got pregnant. You’d think all women know about that little side effect, but they don’t. I know plenty of women who were shocked to learn that an antibiotic can mess with their pills.

  19. KTW says:

    I can think of one novel where the heroine actually said she’ll take the morning after pill – Alyssa Locke in Suzanne Brockmann’s Gone Too Far.

    But that is about it. So you are right. This is a great piece. It’s necessary to question why if romance authors can pick and choose fictional realities for women, they decide to give their contemporary heroines the most archaic patriarchal set of options.

  20. Lynn Spencer says:

    @JulieLeto – Interesting. And actually, I’m often astounded in real life by the number of otherwise well-informed women who don’t know about the effect of antibiotics on the Pill.

    @Laura Vivanco – Interesting info on the post-pregnancy issues. A good friend of mine(and romance reader!) had a baby recently and joked about how if she was a romance heroine, she wouldn’t be so tired and achy.

  21. Katie Mack says:

    @Beret — LOL on the toilet paper!

    @Trish — I think “kryptonite” is a good term to describe that issue.

    @Laura V — Interesting on the pregnancy issues, and how so often pregnancy in romances is viewed through rose-colored glasses.

    @Julie Leto — I really loved Carr’s Virgin River series (although I’ve only read the first 3 so far), and enjoyed learning the details of pregnancy and all it’s complications. I don’t remember the bit about a heroine considering Plan B, although maybe it didn’t stick out in my mind because she was on the pill and didn’t take it. And it’s always surprising to me how many women don’t know about the antibiotics-pill issue, maybe because it was drilled into my head!

    @Anon — I too was reading romances at a young age, and the positive role modeling you bring up is an interesting point. I agree that the whole protection-STD issue can be handled tastefully and romantically, which may even be positive role modeling of a sort for adults IRL who are shy about talking about these issues with a new partner.

    @LynneConnolly — I hadn’t even thought about women who can’t, for health reasons, have children. Very good point!

    @KTW — I’m always fascinated at learning/exploring why authors have their characters make the decisions they do, and the backstory behind the story, so to speak.

    Thanks to everyone mentioning specific books that address this topic. I’m keeping track of the titles so I can check them out.

  22. Cora says:

    One of my big pet peeves in contemporaries is lack of condom use. Perhaps it is because I am a member of the generation that hit puberty at the same time that the AIDS epidemic hit, i.e. a generation that grew up with the notion that sex could literally kill them, but I cannot see how two people who have only known each other for a short time (i.e. the vast majority of romance couples) and have had previous partners would risk having unprotected sex. Which is why I expect condoms to be present in every contemporary published after approx. 1986 and get very irritated when they’re not mentioned.

    As for emergency contraception, like condoms it is a fact of modern life and should at least be mentioned as an option in “Oops” scenarios. I assume it is omitted partly for plot reasons and partly because too many people confuse emergency contraception with abortion, even though the morning after pill is not an abortificant.

    Besides, all those lovely secret baby stories (which I do enjoy on occasion) can still be told when the couple behaves sensibly with regards to contraception and STD prevention. Condoms can break, a woman may decide not to use emergency contraception because she is on the pill (which can also fail for a number of reasons). Or she might simply not get the morning after pill in time. But at least those scenarios would be more realistic than all those romance heroes and heroines pretending that they live in a world where STDs and unwanted pregnancies do not exist, unless a secret baby is required.

    As for abortion, a romance novel where the heroine finds herself pregnant and has an abortion during the current plot would not be published in the current political climate and I’m okay with that. However, why can’t at least a few of those romance heroines who find themselves pregnant under very difficult circumstances, i.e. broke and alone, at least think about having an abortion? Because I’d imagine that every woman who finds herself unwantedly pregnant would at least consider the option, unless she was vehemently opposed to it for religious or other reasons. And even women who are vehemently opposed to abortion for religious reasons sometimes have them anyway. Besides, having the heroine be initially ambivalent about an unexpected pregnancy and only gradually coming to love her baby-to-be, with the help of a supportive hero, would make for a great story and great conflict.

    And am I the only one who finds it ironic that the one author who apparently wrote a romance where the heroine struggles with the decision whether to have a baby or not is an inspirational author?

  23. Elaine S says:

    I am grateful that I am from the generation that came to sexual maturity post-pill/pre-AIDS and have also benefitted (in the USA) from Rowe v Wade and the 1967 Abortion Act (in the UK). These are real-life issues under discussion so I think writers pussyfooting around them is a shame because they have potential for really interesting character development. Over the last 20 years or so the “moral majority” effect has largely made them taboo although I have never been convinced that the “moral majority” is, in fact, a majority at all. Unfortunately, the press and vociferous right-to-life organisations would make us think that every abortion is a tragedy and that it is not possible for someone to have one and have a positive outcome without regrets; these are the women who just don’t speak up because they know they will be judged. There are more of us than many might think and I don’t think anyone should judge us just as I don’t judge those who choose other outcomes.

  24. Maria says:

    STD is my mayor peeve with historicals right now. The first thing that comes to my mind when the hero is described as a rake is SYPHILIS.

    PLEASE take a mistress, use a high end and expensive courtesan but NO the “I had lots of sex with an astronomical number of lose women”.

    Between that and the “Elizabeth Bennet would never do that!” made me a bit shy about historicals so when I see the same standards transplanted to contemporaries…..

    Why can the women of romance land think twice about things? Considered options? Look for solutions? Research?

  25. d-day says:

    I wouldn’t mind having a character deal with EC in a romance if it was dealt with in a realistic way. It’s a fine line. With such a politically charged topic, a portrayal that is too positive OR too negative will read like propoganda.

    But please don’t blame any self-censoring impulses on conservatives or religious people. If an author is putting EC in a book, it’s got to serve the book – otherwise, it is propoganda. It’s got to have consequences. We can predict the reaction of more conservative people to a character’s use of EC as the Best! Thing! Ever! But think about the reaction you’d get, as an author, if you wrote a book and the use of EC did cause a real problem for one of your characters. You’re going to alienate a huge swath of readers that will see it as kow-towing to those darn censoring moralists! There’s just no way that I see to handle the topic in a _way that serves the book_ with the format of mainstream romance. EC has a place in what we read, but it’s got to be in your grittier stuff.

    As for how realistic the portrayal of EC and its physical and emotional side effects, your mileage may vary. If anyone is curious, I’ll go ahead and share my EC experience since it seems like the commenters thus far don’t have firsthand knowledge.

    I’ve taken EC twice – once as a teenager, once in college. Unequivocally, the two days following each EC experience rank right up there in the top-ten worst days of my life [guess that means, I've led a pretty charmed life thus far ;) ] As a teenager, I had to fight like hell because my mom wanted to take me to the hospital to find out what was wrong. I’ve never had vomiting like that in my life, before or since. Everything I ate or drank for 2 days came back up. I remember being just drenched in sweat – so hot and so uncomfortable the whole time. They tell you when you go to Planned Parenthood that the sooner you go, the more effective it is, but since I’d waited 48 hours it wasn’t a guarantee. I spent the whole next month biting my nails and worrying until my period came anyway. No baby.

    The second time was in college. Once again, back to Planned Parenthood. I told them about what happened the first time and they gave me a different hormonal medicine. The extreme side effects happened again. Once again, no baby.

    When similar situations arose in the future, I opted not to go through with EC. When I took EC, I tried to rationalize it as the “responsible” thing, but I mostly felt stupid and bad about the whole thing, even beforehand.

    Had I to do it over again, I would not, under any circumstances, take EC ever again.

  26. Anon: I think it is either authorial laziness or authorial dumbing-it-down for the general population.

    I’d just like to point out that while you could be right, you’re also overlooking the other participant this matter: The editor.

    Some publishing houses have editorial policies dictacting how the authors must deal with condoms, contraceptive devices, STDs, and etc, in the context of their stories.

    While many publishers are enlightened and in their editorial policies, some may not be.

    Don’t be too quick to judge the author.

  27. I’ve done a bit more research online and I think the side effects may vary depending on what kind of emergency contraceptive is being used, and the ones in use in the US may not be the same as the brands used elsewhere in the world.

    According to the Office of Population Research at Princeton University “progestin-only emergency contraceptive pills – like Plan B and Next Choice – have fewer side effects than combined emergency contraceptive pills” and

    “One large study by the World Health Organization looked at the side effects from the two types of emergency contraceptive pills. About one in four (23%) women who use progestin-only emergency contraceptive pills feels sick to her stomach. A very small proportion of women (6%, or about one in 17) throw up after taking these pills. Nausea and vomiting are more common after taking “combined” emergency contraceptive pills: Roughly half (51%) of all women feel sick to their stomachs and about one in 4 (23%) throw up.”

    According to a different page on the same website:

    “”There are nearly two dozen brands of pills that can be used for emergency contraception in the United States today. Plan B and Next Choice, which contain just the hormone progestin, are the only products specifically approved and marketed here as emergency contraceptive pills. You can also use a different dose of a number of brands of regular birth control pills. While these are not sold specifically as emergency contraceptive pills, they have been proven safe and effective for preventing pregnancy in the few days after sex. These daily birth control pills contain two hormones, progestin and estrogen.

    As a general rule, emergency contraceptive pills are taken in two doses.”

    If you scroll down that page, you’ll see that some of these involve rather a lot of pills.

    By contrast, according to the NHS website, in the UK

    “There are currently two brands of emergency contraceptive pill:

    * Levonelle One Step is available free of charge on prescription, or you can buy it from your local pharmacy.
    * Levonelle 1500 is available on prescription, free of charge.

    Both Levonelle One Step and Levonelle 1500 contain the same amount of levonorgestrel (a female sex hormone), and are taken in the same way.”

    I’ve checked the Princeton websiteagain and “Levonelle One Step and Levonelle 1500 each contain a 1-pill dose with 1.5 mg of levonorgestrel.”

  28. Virginia DeMarce says:

    I can’t recall the titles, but I do know that I have read at least two contemporaries in which the heroine had an abortion during a previous relationship. They must have been from the 1990s, when SIM was doing some unusually interesting plots. In one of them, the heroine had been a child/teen model whose mother used her as the main financial support for herself and younger siblings, so she had felt that she simply could not go through with a pregnancy that at best would cause a break of several months in her career and at worst would ruin it altogether because of image problems.

    There were also a couple, both set in England, in which the heroine had a miscarriage, but some venomous soul, in one case her mother who was intent upon breaking up the teen-aged marriage, led the husband to believe that she deliberately had an abortion. Both of those were “reunion” romances in which the couple came back into contact after being divorced for several years.

    As for the “health issues in pregnancy” problems, it simply varies so much from woman to woman that it’s really not possible to make a rule for authors to follow. Morning sickness accompanies a very high proportion of romance-fiction pregnancies, but I have to admit that I produced three perfectly healthy children without so much as burping.

    As for post-pregnancy, after the second child, I was troubled with mild urinary incontinence while asleep (I think I was so exhausted that I just didn’t perceive the signals and wake up in time to get to the bathroom). My doctor, a small-town GP back in the 1970s, prescribed Kegel exercises, which–combined with the end of breast feeding–solved the problem. It never came back.

  29. JMM says:

    “I can think of one novel where the heroine actually said she’ll take the morning after pill – Alyssa Locke in Suzanne Brockmann’s Gone Too Far.”

    IIRC, Sam threw a tantrum at that, said it was “the same as having an abortion”, didn’t want her to do it, and announced that she WAS going to marry him and have his baby “someday”.

    All this while his *existing* child was MISSING somewhere.

    Condoms, authors. PLEASE. Just mention the damn things.

  30. Edie says:

    “When I’m reading a contemporary romance of the non-paranormal variety, I read with the expectation that the characters in the book are living in the same world that readers live in.”

    Can I just say ditto to that, which is why I can not let the contraception issue go!

    I am yet to come across a romance with mention of the e-contraception.. and it has bugged me as well.

    Don’t want to rant too much as it annoys me greatly, but realistically, especially in erotic romances where they are jumping in bed relatively quickly, (which if done well, I am not opposed to but) the reader knows yes the h’s are not going to have STDs but how do the characters know that?? Especially when one of the Hero is often painted as being a hornbag who has slept with legions? How can they be so blase (sp?) about condoms?

  31. bavarian says:

    First I should mention that I’m against abortion. It wouldn’t be a solution for me.
    But that does not mean that I would not like to read about e-contraception or abortion in a romance! It is the world we live in today and there are so many reasons why a woman can be forced to use the one or the other. And I could like this heroine if the author makes her decision plausible. I think authors might find very good stories in dealing with this theme. Sometimes I get really annoyed with the HEA when all the premises speak against this outcome. They marry because of the baby. But you are seeing that they would never suit in the long run. So: Let the heroine have her e-c (or even an abortion) and give her a HEA with a hero with whom this HEA seems likely.
    By the way I once read a romance dealing with a possible abortion. It was a Mills & Boon medical romance. I don’t know if it was ever published in the US. The heroine was 41, a very successful surgeon getting pregnant with the child of one of her registrars, 5 years younger than she. She had worked very hard for her career and now was on the top. And she didn’t believe she could hold the younger man. She didn’t tell him about her pregnancy, but he found out. He wanted the baby. As it was romancelandia they solved their problems, got married and had the baby, but it was made very clear that this baby would be the only one. A big part of the book was about her decision about having the baby or not. I liked this romance very much and would not be opposed to reading more often abut that, open ending inclusive.

  32. Kelly M. says:

    I’m with those who say that they don’t really want to know specifics (as in the toilet paper comment), however I do know, in Julie Garwoods contemporaries, condoms are mentioned in most if not all of them. I never really thought to analyze it, just thought it was more because it was in modern day. I’m just really starting to get into romance books, so I don’t have nearly the experience as most of the other posters do. I do like the historical and midevil romances more, and those seem to be more virgin till marriage type scenarios. So I really never thought of it. I think it’s the authors perrogative on what they do and don’t write about though. Freedom of speech. Take it as you will I suppose.

  33. Janet W says:

    Can I plead the Fifth? AKA, people — romance heroines, I expect, I hope, that they do what they need to do. HOOYAH to Brockmann and Alyssa for formally explicitly announcing what they were gonna do (morning after pill) but “RL” here, when my dd talked to her doc for the first time solo at age 13, she got the mornin’ aftah pack. Our HMO jes gave it to her! Like it’s that traditional, that expected, no biggie. When I read Nora *Fing* Roberts, I “expect” that they’re finding the protection, no need to tell me.

    Am I all convoluted? I don’t want this to be part of the storyline, since my THIRTEEN year-old dd was given the morning after travelling pack at the docs, nor to I want it to be ignored. I guess I leave it up to the author and I “personally” do not interpret “no condom” mention to equal no condom.

  34. Linda says:

    I agree with Maria P. What was once a gift has become a sport. Nothing more needs to be said.

  35. willaful says:

    Janet W: Can I plead the Fifth? AKA, people — romance heroines, I expect, I hope, that they do what they need to do. HOOYAH to Brockmann and Alyssa for formally explicitly announcing what they were gonna do (morning after pill)

    Sadly, this is not a HOOYAH at all. Allysa suggest taking the MAP, then Sam says something like “how is that any different from abortion?” And it is LEFT THERE. The ways in which it is very different from having an abortion–like that its primary purpose is to prevent ovulation, preventing conception from ever taking place– are not mentioned at all. I love Brockmann, but I have never quite forgiven her for that.

    I have *never* seen a reference to emergency contraception except in a negative light and I firmly believe it is because of the extreme conservatism of most romance publishers. In the same way, you almost never see a heroine who has an IUD. Publishers play it extremely safe. Interestingly, in older books you will see a more liberal attitude — heroines won’t actually have abortions, but they will seriously consider them. Nowadays the thought is too horrific to even cross a perfect heroine’s unsullied mind.

  36. SWesley says:

    I have to say I am rather confused by that little scene in the Brockmann as well.

    It’s CONTRACEPTION, emergency or not, and scientifically speaking it does the exact same thing as the pill, and therefore, IMO, should not be any more controversial. It’s not an abortion pill, and it’s amazing to me how many educated women think that.

  37. Anon says:

    I just want to point out that Brockmann may have been ‘allowed’ to include Alyssa’s intent to use the morning after pill due to the circumstances/plot. At that point of the story arc, she and Sam were not a couple…yet. There HEA had not yet occurred and it would have been a horrible time for Alyssa to get pregant by Sam due to the circumstances.

    Maybe Brockmann was ‘allowed’ a lot more leeway due to her series being an ongoing one with lengthy character arcs over a series of books? Also, my view is that her books are/were cross-positioned as suspense rather than solely romance? (I would think that a lot of men would be likely to read them as well as women.) And she is known for including controversial topics.

  38. Anon says:

    Sorry, I meant to say ‘their’ rather than there, of course.

    And to say that Alyssa’s ‘threat’ to use the MAP made perfect sense within the plot. It would have been crazy for her not to consider that option. Her career would have been over and she would have been permanently tied to Sam, a man she desired but despised.

  39. willaful says:

    Since Sam’s “same as abortion” comment squashed the whole issue, I think the point is pretty much moot anyway.

  40. Anon says:

    True! And his statement expanded on his worldview/characterization.

  41. [...] If abortions are taboo don’t forget the The Plan B Taboo. [...]

  42. Camilla says:

    At least one of Sarah Morgan’s Harlequin Medicals discusses EC. the hero is a Dr and he offers a prescription to the heroine after they have unprotected sex…she refuses, etc, bu I still really liked they at least had the discussion!!!

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